Brooks Brothers’ Manhattan flagship was transformed Thursday into a holiday family fest and special shopping night to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

A crowd of 500 joined Brooks Bros. chairman and chief executive officer Claudio Del Vecchio, “Gossip Girl” cast members Chace Crawford, Matthew Settle and Taylor Momsen, and Marlo Thomas, the national outreach director of St. Jude. Thomas regaled an audience of kids with readings from her two children’s books “Free to Be You and Me” and “Thanks & Giving All Year Long,” freeing up the adults for a round or two of eggnog, white wine, pigs in blankets and mini doughnuts dipped in warm caramel.

This story first appeared in the December 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Harlem Boys and Girls Alumni Choir warmed up the crowd with renditions of holiday classics, and jazz legend Wynton Marsalis gave a 45-minute performance.

The store’s partnership with St. Jude in the fight against childhood cancer began in 2005. “Marlo stormed into my office, and I couldn’t say no. I got hooked,” Del Vecchio recalled. “She’s a fantastic salesperson.”

Even in the tough economy, Brooks Bros. has high ambitions for the St. Jude campaign, the retailer’s third in three years, with the goal of raising $1.3 million, which is what it costs to operate St. Jude for one day. Ten percent of the sales throughout the store on Thursday night, as well as 50 percent of the sales of a scented candle, a Christmas ornament and a limited edition polo shirt, specifically created for the campaign, will be donated to the hospital. Along with the candle, women’s cashmere sweaters and men’s non-iron dress shirts were big sellers at the flagship. On Dec. 11 and 12, the Brooks Bros. “Golden Fleece” Foundation hosts a nationwide shopping event in which 2 percent of both days’ sales will be donated.

“We know one thing: The economy will come back — you can bet on it,” Thomas said. “But no one can bet on a child’s health coming back. We just keep fighting to raise the money to get the research to find the cures.”

St. Jude is a pediatric treatment and research facility in Memphis, which has pioneered research and treatments for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases.